Ethnic Mongolian UN-registered refugee threatened by Chinese agents in Bangkok
An ethnic Mongolian Chinese national who fled the country after his involvement in 2020 protests over a ban on Mongolian-medium teaching in schools has been released on bail by authorities in Thailand after being held by Chinese state security police in Bangkok, and remains at high risk of forced repatriation, RFA has learned.
Adiyaa, 34, who uses the Chinese name Wu Guoxing on his passport and ID card, fled China on Jan. 3, 2021, arriving in Thailand via Cambodia, after local police started following him and monitoring his movements in the wake of the language-teaching protests in the fall of 2020.
Adiyaa had obtained refugee status from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, and was waiting for the UNHCR to arrange for him and his family to start a new life in a third country.
On the morning of Oct. 3, he was in his rented apartment when the landlord knocked on his door with an immigration official who asked to see his documents, Adiyaa told RFA following his release on bail on Wednesday.
“Then they took me, without my documents, to the immigration office and told me China had me on a wanted list for repatriation to China,” he said. “I was detained in the police detention center that night.”
The following day, he was taken to a Thai immigration detention center, and told on Oct. 8 that Chinese government personnel were en route to bring him back to China.
“The next day, four people were sent from the Chinese Embassy, one of whom was from the Inner Mongolia police department, [two of whom were] from the ministry of public security,” Adiyaa said. “They asked me to confess to the facts of my ‘crime’ in China, and to fill out an application form to return to China and plead guilty.”
“They were physically and verbally threatening, and asked me to read out a confession they had prepared beforehand verbatim,” he said. “I told them I was a refugee registered with the United Nations and had protection, and they said [that protection] only lasted 15 months, after which the Chinese Embassy could force me to go back to China.”
“I told them I didn’t want to, and that I wasn’t going home.”
Mongolian language ban
Adiyaa said the charges against him were related to “illegal business” activities after he set up a private Mongolian-language school in Horchin Right Middle Banner, a county-like administrative division, in the wake of the ban on Mongolian-language teaching in state schools.
“The government said I was strictly prohibited from continuing to operate … so I refunded all of the tuition fees to the students and paid all of the teachers’ salaries,” he said. “The investors had made an agreement to share the risk of the company not being able to operate.”
Calls to Thai immigration authorities for comment went unanswered.
Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping has imposed policies on ethnic minority regions in recent years aimed at “forging a national consciousness,” and the “sinicization” of religious practice, ushering in a nationwide crackdown on Muslims, Christians and Tibetan Buddhists, as well as a ban on minority languages as a teaching medium in schools.
The ban on Mongolian prompted street protests and class boycotts by students and parents across Inner Mongolia, prompting a region-wide crackdown by riot squads and state security police in the fall of 2020.
Tibetan, Uyghur and Korean-language teaching is also being phased out of schools in ethnic minority areas, local parents and teachers have told RFA.
Adiyaa told RFA he believes he was targeted because he took part in a demonstration in Hohhot, the regional capital of China’s Inner Mongolia region, which borders the independent country of Mongolia.
“We took part in a demonstration outside the high school affiliated to the Inner Mongolia Normal University; all in all I and a few friends went to three or four protests,” Adiyaa said. “Then, the police came and searched my home, and confiscated my mobile phone, computer and external drive … and the state security police had me under daily surveillance, monitoring when I went out and where I was going every day.”
He fled China via Cambodia with the help of a people smuggler, and spent a while in Chiang Mai with his brother and family.
But it soon became clear that Adiyaa still wasn’t safe.
“In Chiang Mai, four of us – me, my brother, sister-in-law and nephew – were hit by a car driven by a Chinese plainclothes operative,” he told RFA.
Under Thai law, Adiyaa’s bail conditions require him to report to the police station once a week, as well as barring him from leaving Thailand, but place him at risk of kidnap and rendition by Chinese agents, he said.
The Southern Mongolian Human Rights and Information Center quoted Adiyaa’s sister Turgowaa as saying that her brother holds a UNHCR refugee identification card, but had been told nonetheless that the Thai authorities are actively cooperating with the Chinese Embassy to ensure he is forcibly repatriated.
“It is all too clear that the Thai immigration bureau is ganging up with the Chinese state security authorities, disregarding the United Nations conventions on refugees and human rights,” she told the group.
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